for the Creatives

On taking creative risks

The end of last year I heard 3 sermons in a row, and from different speakers, about God rewarding risk (referencing the parable of the talents). It seemed like apt timing with me taking a risk and publishing a quirky meta short story. Niche in every sense. And nearly a year later, I regret nothing. I might have chosen different marketing avenues, but that’s about it.

More recently I’ve heard a teaching about God rewarding risk, from Alex Marestaing referencing when Jonathan said “Let’s go to the camp of those foreigners. Maybe the Lord will use us to defeat them” (1 Samuel 14:6, ESV). Key word “maybe.” Jonathan didn’t know. He took a risk.

One artist trope is that we have to quit our dayjob to build a successful artist career. That’s the only way we have adequate time to get our business off the ground…right? A few weeks ago I was reading “Originals” (affiliate link) about how nonconformists move the world, and studies actually show that businesses tend to be more successful when the entrepreneur kept their dayjob for awhile. (Read the book for exact details and figures and such.) Because the pressure was off, they could take the time to build something solid. Adam Grant, author of Originals, talked about how instead of taking a risk in every area of life, taking one great risk (like launching an artistic career) while playing it extra cautious in other areas to balance it all out. One great calculated risk.

Back to Alex Marestaing’s teaching. (I know, I’m all over the place, you love it 😛 ). I don’t remember the words he used, but he talked about how Jonathan didn’t know the outcome, but he knew God’s character, so it was a calculated risk.

Calculated risk. I like that. Because taking a risk sounds brave and daring and adventurous, but this little homebody wants to think through all the minute details and move ahead with caution. I like hearing that I can have both. But it still comes back to taking a risk. Artists still gotta jump at some point – or, more like at multiple points – in building their creative life.

This whole “risk” message coming back into my life right now, I’ll be honest, I don’t have a big booklaunch or a big anything in my plans. So what does the “big risk” messaging mean this time? I don’t know. But I’m making myself ready for when it shows itself.

Tell me: Are you more on the calculated side, or more of the risk taker? Which do you tend toward and which do you need to grow in today? Stepping out in risk, or taking a moment to calculate?

for the Creatives

The one thing that makes or breaks my marketing

Almost a year of selling “I Know You Like a Murder”. I’m no marketing expert by any means. But I googled and read books & articles and experimented. And thought I’d share the results so you can learn from them.

In my last post for patrons I gave my most successful marketing tactic. But there’s another strategy that makes those tactics possible in the first place, a strategy that I first learned from Ksenia Anske.

But first, let me tell you what marketing I tried, and I’ll also speculate as to why it helped or didn’t (although I could be off in my guesses):

  • Facebook/Twitter ads: I think for these to be successful, you have to actually know how to use them. Take a class or something. I tried a bit of money in both without learning how to use them first, so I got 0 sales.
  • Blog Tour: I hired a recommended successful blog tour company. Got hundreds of posts from book bloggers across the web. And got few sales. I think because my book was too niche, and it may have been more successful if it was a more widely read genre.
  • Book reviewers: I love book reviewers. Their service to the book community – readers and authors alike – is so appreciated and so valued. I sent books out (upon request, don’t just send them haphazardly) and received positive & negative reviews. Both positive and negative reviews are so important, because honest reviews are important. While I did not see tangible results, reviews in general are a book’s lifeline, so indirectly I am sure these pushed interested readers into buying readers (and let’s be honest, into non-buying readers if the book wasn’t for them, that’s important too. No one wants to waste time reading a book that isn’t for them.)
  • Book booths at area events: This has been one of my more successful, when I’m at the right place with the right people.
  • Preorders: Lots of posts about launch and lots of hype about finally publishing. This was very successful for a first-time author learning the ropes.
  • Book launch party: This was my most successful event so far. I sold in one day the same I’d sold through the entire preorder season.

But these aren’t strategies. These are just tools.

Can you spot the difference? What’s the difference between the items in that list that made the first half less successful than the last half?

You. Readers. Fans. Fans of my writing, or even just fans of my existence (I think they’d rather be called friends, but ya know…)

The book launch party was a success because of you. The crime scene tape idea came from one of you. Your fanart inspired and brought about the collectors cards.

Online preorders were a success because of you. Seriously, I calculated and most strangers’ purchases have come from your excitement. So what if the author is excited about their own work, I want to know if somebody else is, right? (I exaggerate, because an author’s excitement also sells btw.) Your attendance, your facebook likes, comments, shares, posts, your purchases – those drove sales more than any work I put in.

Your voice makes a difference to my creative career. So thank you. Thank you for celebrating with me and being with me in this journey.

In your creative pursuits, don’t discount the excitement of those around you. Count it a privilege and an honor, because not every artist gets that. And count it more valuable than anything you can purchase, because you can’t purchase enthusiasm and that’s what sells.

Sure, I learned a lot from studying Lady Gaga’s marketing (become a patron to read more about Lady Gaga marketing). But no matter what, remember it still all starts with you.

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for the Creatives

Not everyone has the time all the time

Saying “I don’t have the time” is most of the time and for most people an excuse, not an actuality. It’s simply a matter of reprioritizing.

But, that is not true for everyone. That is not true all of the time.

You have to be honest with yourself for yourself: Is saying “I don’t have the time” right now an excuse or a legitimate reason? I have to ask myself this question semi-regularly. Only you can decide.

But I’m learning one thing: Time to create is a privilege. When I have it, I try to honor it. I try to proceed with grace and gratitude for the moments and space that I have. I don’t always succeed.

And there are legitimate times where we don’t have the time and the space to create. I try to honor that too. To not guilt-trip or push. I don’t always succeed.

I try to be honest with where I’m at each moment. I don’t always succeed. It’s a process. It’s this attempt at that elusive thing called “balance”. And it’s okay to not get it right all the time. At least, so I remind myself. And today is a day that I wanted to remind myself, and I thought maybe I’d remind you too while I’m at it.

for the Creatives

An artist’s call to serve

Last month I wrote a blogpost about what artists have a responsibility to in their art. The trend right now is generally toward the artist’s role in the social justice movement or to using their platform to speak out.

Which is important. But a coworker reminded me that another big part of an artist’s calling is the call to serve. I think of the work of an artist throughout history, of commissions and patronage, of crafting for practical purposes and for communal areas.

Sometimes I see serving and chores synonymously, which is of course a piece of serving. But it’s important to remember the work of service in the artistic field too.

A quick note on valuing your work:

I think there’s a bit of a backlash to that thought sometimes, swinging too far the other direction trying to avoid the “starving artist” mentality and trying to remember our own worth as an artist. But it’s not one or the other: it’s both.

It certainly isn’t becoming a doormat and saying “yes” to every request for free labor that gets thrown your way. And it certainly isn’t throwing out halfhearted work without considering how it’s meeting the needs of the fanbase and how to give back to your community and to the artistic community.

I’m still learning to grasp both concepts tightly instead of leaning on one over the other. Placing value on the work of an artist while also finding ways to serve. That can include both volunteering free labor and also doing the work you’re paid to do with excellence.

Steps to take towards serving through your art:

  1. How are we serving our customers, our communities, our family/friends, and other artists?
  2. What value do we provide?
  3. How do we go above and beyond to care for them?
  4. Where do we sacrifice pieces of ourselves through our craft?

Some of it will be practical chore-like service: preparing a snack for a writers gathering or cleaning up after a paint night or organizing a conference.

Some of it will be serving through art: posting a timely word of encouragement, volunteering to proofread a cousin’s college application, or spending that extra time on worldbuilding for your novel to better entertain the readers who catch tiny details.

Serving comes in many forms, but overflows from a heart set on others. I’m spending time reflecting on that, how I’m currently serving others through art, and how I can continue to serve.

Tell me: In what ways have you seen artists (yourself or others) serving?

for the Creatives

Bloggers to add to your list

My friend was looking to expand her bloggerly reading list and asked who I follow. And I thought this was worth sharing with you all, too.

Honestly sometimes I feel like life has veered more toward Twitter threads and email newsletters…? Anyone else? It’s great to remind myself that my favorite online space, the bloggerly world, is still out there and still valued.

So here are some I’m reading. They’re all currently blogging, and though this list features a variety of styles with differing artistic outlets, it’s all beautiful.

When I’m not blogging, here’s some favorites I’m reading:

Abby Norman: abbynorman.net

Hannah Brencher: hannah-brencher.squarespace.com/diary
(and while you’re at it, be sure to sign up for her Monday Morning email club to start your week off right)

Juni’s Journal: junisjournal.wordpress.com

Jami Fowler: jamifowler.wordpress.com

Tara Sparling: tarasparlingwrites.com

iwannabealady: iwannabealady.com

NicoleSundays: nicolesundays.wordpress.com

And writerly-specific ones:

Kristen Lamb: authorkristenlamb.com

Blonde Write More: blondewritemore.com

Any others to add?

Comment below some of your favorite bloggers to expand the list even more.

for the Creatives

Studying the Greats: Who do you wanna be?

Who do you wanna be when you grow up? Not “grow up” as a person, but grow as an artist. Deciding that is a starting point. Then studying them, that’s one of the greatest keys to growth. If you can’t envision where you’re headed, it’s a little more difficult to get there.

You don’t have to personally know them. There are four super simple steps I’m posting for patrons on how to learn from the greats. Come join that discussion!

And tell me by commenting below: Who are you aspiring to be? Which creative souls are out there doing some piece of what you are wanting to do? and most importantly, what are you learning from them?

for the Creatives

The obligation of an artist

I’ve been pondering the role of an artist, what our responsibility is and what can depend on our brand. What qualifies as our role and what is “out of our lane”. I don’t have that all figured out, and it may be more subjective than all this, but here’s where I’m at right now:


“Shut up and sing,” they say. “Stay in your lane. Leave politics to the politicians. Your education, your skillset is merely the creation of an aesthetic piece.”

But you know. You know your education is more than the word on the page, the brush on the canvas, the graceful movement or theatrical quip, more than the combination of melody and harmony.

Your skillset is in the human condition, the myriad of stories and moments and emotions and experiences and struggles that make a life. It bleeds into your art, your life, your politics, your values. There is no separation. And as an expert on the human condition, your voice matters.

  • We have an obligation to speak from where we’ve come, where we are, where we’re going.
  • We have an obligation to listen.
  • We have an obligation to represent the diversity and the variety of the world around us.
  • We have an obligation to amplify marginalized voices.
  • We have an obligation to speak for justice, for life, for humanity. To speak for the vulnerable and overlooked. To represent without exploiting their story for our own gain.
  • We have an obligation to challenge. To guide, to push, to disturb the status quo.
  • We have an obligation to truth, in both fiction and nonfiction.

I’m still learning. I’m still learning what this looks like for artists in general and for me specifically. I’d love to hear your thoughts. What is the role of an artist? Where do they fit in society beyond entertainment?

for the Creatives

Marie Kondoing your time

First question: Which of the things you spend your time on spark joy? That’s the easy part. This is where all my creative aspirations go.

But there’s a next part. Because I knowwww that you spend time doing the dishes and it *never* sparks joy.

When Marie Kondo went into the kitchen or the bathroom closet, she often switched her question. My whisk or my washcloths don’t exactly spark joy, but I’m certainly not throwing them away; they’re kinda necessary. “Do you see yourself taking this into your future?” or “Do you see this as part of your ideal lifestyle?” That was the type of question she would ask (I don’t remember her exact wording, forgive me for botching). Then maybe the washcloth doesn’t spark joy, but I appreciate its place in my apartment because I see how it contributes to the life I want to lead.

From my (admittedly limited) understanding, the KonMari method is more than just about objects that spark joy, but about building a life that sparks joy. It’s not about minimalism or cleaning or decluttering, though those all can be part of the process. It’s about appreciating and loving what we have and the things we surround ourselves with.

So, second question to KonMari your time: Which of the things you spend time on do you see taking you into your future? And, related but different, which of the things you spend time on do you see as part of your ideal lifestyle?

Often the second question encompasses items you have to do but don’t want to, which brings a whole new level of appreciation and gratitude. (Me right now: “Hmm, yeah, I guess my ideal future does not involve a pigsty of dirty dish piles, so until I hire a housekeeper, I’m washing dishes!”)

Third question: What other things do you spend your time on that the above questions don’t cover? Hint: Ditch those things and fill that time with joy sparking! Oh wait…KonMari method…. Thank those things for what they brought to your life, thennnnnn trash them.

(Sidenote: There may be items on the third list you legitimately can’t ditch. I get it. No harm, no foul. I am moreso meaning the things that you can.)

Big old caveat here: I am not a consultant or an expert. I’m just someone who watched the Netflix show. For expert advice, that’d be Marie Kondo.

for the Creatives

How to do ALL THE THINGS as a multi-creative

I write stories and blogposts, and I teach, and I have dayjob and family and friends and I should probably try to live healthy like go to the gym and prep veggies, oh and Marie Kondoing my life is pretty important right now, plus I travel a lot to see my Wisconsin Guy (I mean, my only guy, but he’s also my Wisconsin Guy), plus there’s church and there’s serving my community, and let’s not forget Netflix. Phew, I’m wiped! Oh, and I need sleep! Yes, sleep. ZZZzzzZZZzzzZZZzzzz.

In maintaining my writerly entrepreneurial life, I have book writing, blogging, social media updates, email newsletter, patron updates, book signings and events, writers groups, teaching classes, #DelilahTales updates about my mannequin’s life because why not, artistic fashion resale, directing the literary arts section of a Christian creative arts conference, and of course a dayjob to make this all possible.

And, in case ya didn’t notice from above, I’m not even the most multi-creative human out there. Some of y’all out there write and dance and paint and act and and all the things. Some of y’all have kids. Some of y’all have 3 jobs. Let’s be real: Some of y’all are busier than me.

But in juggling all the things, I’ve learned a few tips I thought I’d pass along. If you feel like you’re bombing your resolutions, it’s okay. Let’s reset. Let’s take another month to figure it out, and I won’t tell anybody. 

In a previous post I gave a micro-step about picking which ball you’ll keep in the air, but there’s a whole process to go deeper into re-evaluating each piece of your life and getting a few steps closer to doing the things that you’re actually wanting to do with the time you have.

Here’s my step by step process to prioritizing. I did it back when I got serious about my writing, and routinely I’ve re-evaluated and adjusted from there. It might help you.

When I began to make a regular writing routine, but didn’t have time for it, I did the following:

  1. Made a list of priorities, which included all the things I want to be the focus of my life for the time. This can include activities and abstract concepts: community, faith, writing, blogging, etc.
  2. Made a separate list of obligations, the things I don’t want to be the focus of my life but I have to give some time to. This also includes activities and abstract concepts: health (nutrition and gym), rest days, dayjob, sleep, etc.
  3. Goal of the above: diminish as much time as possible for obligations – for instance from my life, don’t work overtime if possible, don’t set some ridiculous gym goal, choose quicker healthy foods rather than hours of meal prep, have one rest day a week but not lounging for weeks on end, etc.  – and add the priorities to calendar wherever possible, organize life around those things.
  4. Made a separate list that detailed every single thing I spend my time doing currently. Included sleep, gym, meal prep, movie watching, reading, writers group, church small group, church services, work, writing, watching tv shows with a couple friends, babysitting, etc.
  5. Removed everything from my calendar that was part of that last list but not on the other lists. I noticed one small group I attended was not a community to me, but the other was, so I dropped the one that did not factor into my priority of “community”. I stopped babysitting. Cut the TV show watching with friends mostly, and prioritized writerly relationship meetings that help achieve my writing priority.
  6. Anything that came up to add to my calendar, I weighed on this scale: Is this in line with my priorities? Yes, then add it. Is this more under obligation? Okay, I’ll add it if I need to allot time to this still. Is this neither? Nope, can’t do it, I’m busy.

Notes:

  • This will fluctuate with time. Going through this process isn’t thinking “For the rest of my life, where does this fall?” It’s “Right now, where does this fall? For this season, what do I want my life to look like?” Maybe decluttering is priority because Marie Kondo and spring cleaning vibes. But then, you declutter, congratulations by the way, and suddenly you want music and sleep to be your top priority instead. This isn’t set in stone for all time. So ask yourself, for the next year or 6 months or 3 months, what you want it to look like.
  • The “obligation” category isn’t a bad section. You can even enjoy obligations very much (three cheers for sleep!). Obligations are still very much important and given regular time, just not extra. It’s important I go to the gym, spend time with family, sleep, attend my church, serve my community, work, write…but it’s all a question of which things I will allot time and not give extra time to (obligation), and which ones I need to fill my calendar as full as I can with because they’re my focus (priority).
  • For you: Which creative pursuits are an obligation? Which creative pursuits are a priority? Either way is fine. What about family? friends? health? cleaning your house? netflix? reading? gaming? travel? What about all your other activities? It’s all up to you. There’s no wrong list, it’s just personal to your life goals, aspirations, desires, etc.

Final step, I promise:

With the list of priorities and what gets what time, you want those priorities in order. What’s your top priority if you had to lose everything but one? What’s your second priority? And so on down the list. Once you do that, fit them each into your calendar on a regular basis in accordance with your prioritization, but you always know what drops first if you can’t hit it and you always know what gets any extra time you carve out.

So is your top priority theater? Novel? Blogging? Give your top priority the most of your focus/time/energy. Give a little time to the others. Maybe some will be every day, some every week, and some only every month. Who knows. But don’t focus so much on juggling all your lower priorities that you don’t give the time to your top priority.

It’s okay to want a lot of things, and you’ll figure out what works for you balance-wise with time.

You don’t have to do ALL THE THINGS. At least not all at once. Choose a couple for now. Add some in when you have room, take some off when you don’t. Most importantly, cut down as much “obligation” time as you can and throw it all at your “priorities” list. Something beautiful will come of it.

New top secret content for you!

If you like my detailed analytical posts like this one, it’s becoming a new perk for my most raving fans. From now on, these will be top secret content you can receive one of two ways:

  1. An abridged version of any new post is sent to those who receive my posts by email. You can sign up for free at the very bottom of my webpage. 
  2. The all-access pass for the archives and any future exclusive posts is available to paying patrons for just $2/mo. You can sign up at Patreon.com/AmyLSauder

The only question is, which will you choose?